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Mobile Satisfaction: Which Travel Companies Do Best?

A new study shows that Southwest Airlines tops the rest—and flies far above its nearest airline competition. What lessons could you takeaway for your own conference apps?

With travelers often on the move, offering a simple-to-use mobile app can keep you ahead of your competition—especially if they’re trying to research their options.

A new study from consumer analytics company ForeSee compares consumer satisfaction with the mobile experience of 25 companies representing four travel-related industries, including hotels, airlines, travel sites, and car rental companies.

More details on “The ForeSee Mobile Satisfaction Index: Travel Edition” below:

Even looking at something as simple as search functionality on a mobile device can determine if an app or mobile site is living up to its potential.

What’s the value here? According to the study, satisfying travelers remains a necessity for many companies, but the dynamic is changing significantly. “Now mobile technology, like smartphones and tablets, is making that process even more convenient by freeing consumers to do their travel planning whenever and wherever they like,” the study notes. “Consumers use their mobile devices for everything, and they are rarely without one.” And as a result, mobile presence is increasingly becoming a major issue for the on-the-go.

Who’s doing it right: At the top of the list? Southwest Airlines, which scored an 82 on ForeSee’s study, two points higher than its next-closest competitor (Choice Hotels International) and five points higher than the next closet airline (American Airlines). What put Southwest on top? “This could be the result of the utility and simplicity of the airline’s mobile site and app from both the usability and informational standpoints,” the study suggests. Most other industries ranked closer quality-wise, with other top performers including Avis Rent-a-Car and Kayak.com. At the bottom of the airline list? US Airways, which scored a 74.

Usage lessons: The goal for many travelers looking for info isn’t booking—it’s research. According to the study, 43 percent of users focused on research, versus 23 percent looking to book a service or flight. And does it make a difference if people are focusing on an app instead of a mobile site? Not really. According to the study, apps, which had a satisfaction level of 78, barely topped those who use mobile sites (77). The study notes, however, that the slightly higher score for apps may be due to the more-tailored setting. Ultimately though, if users find it confusing, they’ll complain. “Even looking at something as simple as search functionality on a mobile device can determine if an app or mobile site is living up to its potential,” the white paper notes [PDF]. “If customers cannot find what they are looking for, they will not be satisfied.”

The lessons you can take: If you’re building a useful conference experience on a mobile device, a solid top-down experience is key. And even if the app isn’t necessarily for a conference, a clean experience remains important. While mobile isn’t yet the top priority for many associations according to a poll of attendees at the 2012 ASAE Technology Conference & Expo, the issue is growing for many. Earlier this month, Associations Now’s Katie Bascuas noted the growing importance of apps for a number of associations.

(iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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